DEAR SIR: De boeren (Dutch farmers) are protesting. They want to stop the nitrogen madness. That is something many of us can agree with.
Yes, let’s stop the madness of importing protein from across the Atlantic and Russian gas to make nitrogen fertilisers so that most of us can consume meat and in excess of what is good for us.
The reality is much of Europe’s agrifood system is not sustainable and the symptoms of that are most visible here in the northwestern European livestock belt – the Netherlands, Belgium and northwestern Germany.
A large proportion of this livestock production is untenable. It has saturated our ecosystems with reactive nitrogen just to provide for consumption in excess of public health guidelines.
Many of these ‘farmers’ are now more managers of industrialised feeding systems and of slurry than they are managers of land.
They have expanded their businesses despite clear signals that they are operating far in excess of resources and environmental limits.
These farmers depend on imported feed to supply markets that are contracting.